tv Charlie Rose Bloomberg May 1, 2015 10:00pm-11:01pm EDT
>> from our studios in new york city, this is "charlie rose." charlie: we begin this evening with baltimore. protests this week after freddie gray was killed in police custody. the baltimore police announced today that they have completed an investigation into what happened and findings have been turned over to the state attorney. this reveals tensions between law enforcement and communities of color, exposing the painful legacy of race in america. joining me is sherrilyn ifill, director of the naacp legal defense and education fund.
you have said we are in the throes of a national crisis. define the crisis. sherrilyn: i think the crisis is one of confidence. all over this country, there are people, young people of all races, who have lost confidence in the justice system and the rule of law. they no longer believe that our law enforcement system is legitimate. and for democracy, belief in the rule of law is the bedrock principle. when you lose the public confidence, you are shaking the core. this should matter not just to black people, people in baltimore, charleston, or ferguson, but to everyone. charlie: how did we get here? sherrilyn: people are seeing behind the veil.
white americans were shut off from the reality. and then there were photographs of dogs and fire hoses and consciousness was awakened. we have been working on this issue as have many other organizations and we largely have not been believed by the public. they have been seen as individual incidents and we have not been able to convince people. charlie: do you think this is an attitude in the police or simply people within the police? sherrilyn: i hear about the bad apples in the rogue police officers and i think there are bad apples. as in every workplace most people are well-meaning people.
charlie: the majority of policeman are well-meaning? sherrilyn: i do. but i think we should separate the biases we are talking about. one is the explicit bias that we are talking about, the officer that is a bad officer, seeks to denigrate african-americans. the rest of the officers have a job to do in outing that officer. there has to be an effort to purge the police department of police officers who should not serve. then there is the bias that we are not conscious of, what we do make an assessment real quickly of who people are. most of us do it and most of us take the time to have assessment corrected through interaction with people. when you see a police cruiser roll up on tamir rice who were shot in the park with a toy gun,
they shoot him within seconds. they do not take the time to assess the situation. you heard officers saying that he thought he was 20 years old over the radio. they decided he was a grown man. we are seeing officers who manage that part that exists in so many americans. we live in a society in which races present and we need to give well-meaning officers the tools they need to manage violence. charlie: we start with training, selection, and cultural awareness. sherrilyn: i start with purging the bad officers. any one incident involving an officer that is explicitly racist, that uses the language we are hearing when officers engage with young african-american man, they need to be purged. and fellow officers need to tell
on them. we need recruitment, we need to recruit officers who want to serve. i had a great conversation with the former police commissioner of baltimore the other day and he said to me that when he trained recruits, he always was wary of those who said they want to be narcotics or homicide. he said those of the people were coming to the job with a spirit of adventure and not a spirit of service. we should be looking for officers who not only have mental toughness and courage but to have a spirit. then you need to provide the training and supervision to manage them in the environment they will find themselves. charlie: should they be required to live in the city where they work? sherrilyn: i absolutely believe officers need to be invested in the communities where they live and they need to be known. the best way is to have officers that reside in the community.
where that is not possible it becomes even more important to do the training. charlie: what do we need for presidential leadership? sherrilyn: some of it we have already seen. the president has been terrific about being willing to speak honestly. he just did it this week when he said baltimore did not just get here, this has been decades in the making. but words are one thing. what is more important to me our -- are actions and the most important action has been the willingness of the department of justice to mobilize behind this issue beginning with attorney general holder. increasing the number of investigations of police officers that may be engaged in a pattern of discrimination. going to ferguson personally. they have been to baltimore meeting with young activists. baltimore has been engaged in a collaborative review with the justice department. charlie: what is the naacp doing? sherrilyn: from the beginning we
have been on the ground trying to take a 360 on the issues. one of the most important issues is how do you touch as many police departments as possible and we have been advocating for the department of justice to use the nearly $1 billion that they deployed to police departments around the country to engage in the kind of training we were talking about. to require body worn cameras. to train on the de-escalating tension. to increase diversity in police departments because diversity matters as well. and then in the individual communities, providing technical support on the ground, reviewing the grand jury process, and trying to stay on the scene to ensure that the legal system is operating the way it is supposed to. charlie: what can you tell us about the case of mr. gray? sherrilyn: sadly, i can tell you very little.
we know what we saw in the video of him being taken to the van. we have not had a satisfactory explanation of the initial encounter between the police and mr. gray. this is important because after the encounter things ratchet up. why did the police approach them in the first place? the police made eye contact and he ran. i think there are many people, having seen the incidents over the past year, who will run. what is the reason that they approached him and what happened when they got him in their clutches? what happened before he was put in the van, when he was put in the van, who were the officers. we have been asking since he was arrested, not since he died but since he was arrested. charlie: there are also communities that were damaged
because of protests against what they feel is deep injustice. what do you make of the protests and how do we evaluate them? how do we understand them? how do we make sure it does not go to a point where you are doing great damage to the community that you live in? sherrilyn: this is always a source of pain. because what you see when you see the kind of unrest that you saw in baltimore is the level of frustration of young people, the level of frustration that boils over and becomes destructive. you never want to get to that point. that is not an indictment of the young people, it is an indictment of us. it shows us how far we have allowed this to go, to the point that young people can be set off so easily. when i look at a community in west baltimore that we were
seeing all night on cbs, you look along that strip and you look at the businesses that are there. are people really concerned about black businesses in baltimore? getting small business loans to people who want to build a business? are people really concerned about infrastructure in baltimore and streets and potholes? these are issues that cried out for the attention of the mayor and the business leaders and the federal government to provide infrastructure and support. i would not condone somebody harming somebody else's business. do i understand it? do i understand the source of frustration? do i believe the reaction is more important than what caused the reaction? i believe that understanding what caused it is important. i understand the frustrations of young people in baltimore, i understand how isolated they are
in the challenges in the school system. that is what i see when i see the behavior. it does not make me cheer by any stretch of the imagination but what i feel is empathy and compassion and a little bit of anger and shame that we have been so unresponsive, that we have allowed this wealth of rage to build up and spill over in our cities to the point that young people are being self-destructive. charlie: when you see a mother on the streets of baltimore saying to me and others, i did not want to lose my son to the streets, and she becomes a hero, what do you think of the symbolism and reality of what she did? sherrilyn: there are two pieces of this. one is the personal. personally it is beautiful that she expresses love for her son and is willing to speak about
that. but her actions are motivated by fear and i asked myself the question, in america in 2015 should a mother have to fear like that? her son said she did not want me to be another freddie gray. she did not want police officers to turn on me and do what that mother knows that police officers are willing to do to a young person doing what he was doing. i have a question about motherhood and fear. why is it ok? why do we consider it heroic for a mother raising six children and trying to raise them well to have to -- charlie: and without a job. sherrilyn: to operate with that kind of fear.
when i look at it closely baltimore, there are women like her all over city. some of them do not have jobs. the ones that do have jobs are at the bus stops at 5:00 in the morning and they have a nurse uniform on and they have to leave kids at home and they are not coming home until 7:00, not because they do not love kids. i do not hear that conversation. i more often hear african-american mothers demonized as welfare moms, neglectful, too loud, all kinds of things except loving and working incredibly hard under incredibly difficult circumstances to raise children. if that is the conversation this opens up, i am glad we saw the video. if it becomes exculpatory, all we need are mothers to grab kids, that is not the answer. we need infrastructure to support a mother like that in a
justice system that allows her not to be so fearful that there are only two options for her son. making mistakes. teenagers do things that are not right. the consequence should not be to have your spine broken by the police or to be subjected to gun violence in the streets. if she is operating out of fear, what is our responsibility? charlie: thank you for coming. sherrilyn ifill from the legal defense fund of the naacp. we will have more from that mother and her son. stay with us. ♪
charlie: we are continuing the conversation with toya graham. this video has gone viral. i am pleased to have them on the program. tell me about baltimore and your community. how difficult it is to support a family as a single parent. toya: baltimore is a beautiful place. we are a small community that tries to come together. we have some good in baltimore and we have a lot of bad.
when i speak of bad i am speaking of gangs and drug dealers and drug activities. abandoned houses. low income, trying to provide for a household like i am of six kids, it is hard. you have to figure out where your child is on a day-to-day basis. charlie: it is difficult. tell me about your life, everyday, what do you do. what is your engagement by the community, friends. michael: everyday is not perfect, everyday is not fun. there might be danger, there might be something going on in the community. sometimes you just don't want to
be around people, sometimes you do. playing basketball. charlie: what is the danger? michael: the danger is going outside, with your niece or nephew, to the playground. people shooting, people stabbing. kidnapping. hitting people with cars. charlie: how many friends that you have had have been victims of violence or killed? michael: i would say a couple of my friends have died. charlie: have been killed by violence on the street? michael: yes. charlie: freddie gray and what happened to him, being dragged into the police van, has done
what to the community? toya: enough's enough. we needed some answers. thank god somebody was able to videotape what happened to that gentleman because this happens on a daily basis. you can be pulled over just because you look a certain way. in sandtown, as it is called, if you look a certain way and you are pulled over and you do not abide by what they say, why are you in this part of town -- usually visiting a loved one. but because the places drug infested, they feel as though you have some kind of involvement in being in that kind of circle right there. it is sad to say that these
youth cannot go to a baltimore police and just have a general conversation with them or feel like they can be protected by them. charlie: you talking about black and white policemen? you have a black mayor and police chief. toya: i do not think it is racist towards black and white it is towards blue. charlie: cops. michael: i feel the same way. charlie: we have seen incidents around the country. why were you in the streets when your mother saw you? michael: i was down there to protest. my friend was abused by the police and beaten so i went down to fight them.
charlie: it was an act of protest against the police because of what had happened to your friend. when did you first see your mother? michael: i saw my mother, i barely seen her when she seen me. charlie: she saw you first? were you trying to camouflage yourself? michael: i was trying to camouflage myself. i had on all black for freddie gray. charlie: for the protest. did you have contact with the police that day? were you throwing things? michael: i was not throwing things but i was involved with the protest. charlie: what happens? were you looking for him or seeing what was going on? toya: i went looking to see if he was there. mike is not the perfect child and i am not trying to portray
him as the perfect child. when i got there my hope was that he was not there. and being there, i came into contact with seeing the rocks being thrown at the police officers and i was overwhelmed with it. charlie: you said to me two things. you did not want to lose him to the streets, you told me. secondly, you said that you lost it. that is what we witnessed. give us the moment. toya: i cannot imagine first what freddie gray's mom is going through, losing her child. i did not want anything to happen to michael because you are doing harm to someone else the police. i was really angry with him because there are better ways to
handle situations like that. he could have went to the funeral. you could have went and viewed the body like i did. throwing rocks at the police is not acceptable. charlie: but you lost it? what does that mean? toya: i was so angry with him that first i told him not to be there and then to come in contact and have to be down there in the midst of it, and my son was there, doing what those children were doing, i just lost it. charlie: i am not going to let you have this. toya: i am not going to let you have this. you are going with me but i am going to embarrass you in front of your peers so that you know that i love you and i do not want to lose you to the streets. charlie: when you got home, what did you say? michael: i told my mother that i was sorry.
stuff like that. charlie: and when you heard that? should have thought about that before he went down there? toya: yeah, he should have thought about that before he went down there. but he is a teenaged boy and i just hope that he understands the seriousness of everything that took place on that day. that started a big riot. buildings was being burnt up. had i not been there, i do not know how far he would have went. if he would have made it to pennsylvania and north avenues. charlie: you have been called a hero. do you think of yourself as a hero or simply a mother who did what she had to do? toya: i do not think of myself as a hero at all.
i have not even gotten to the point where i can comprehend the fact that that is what they are calling me. i was just trying to get my son out of a bad situation. charlie: you have received a huge focus from the media. people like me and others. you were on "cbs this morning," "the view," other programs. it was on the evening news and everywhere else. what do you make of all of that? toya: i agreed to do all of the newscasts and the broadcasts because some people are going to have their opinions about baltimore city and about the way that i dealt with the situation and i just wanted them to hear my side of it as a mother. i do not think that i was the only mother that showed up. i think i was the only mother who was caught on camera, that
is what i think. some others might not have been able to be there. they had to send their boyfriends or a cousin or uncle or something like that. at no time do i think that i am a hero. i think that we all have to come together for the senseless crime that happened with freddie gray and try to get some justice. charlie: how does your life go on from here? you go back to baltimore? toya: i go back to baltimore. like everyone know, i am a mother of six. i have a 17-year-old that is going to have a prom. even though we received this attention for whatever reason, i am still a mom first so i have to go home and get prepared and get her off to prom. i still have to get a job. my life will go on after the cameras are gone. everything is going to go back to normal. charlie: thank you for coming
african-american woman to win the nobel prize for miniature. president obama says that her novel taught her how to be. he awarded her the presidential medal of freedom in 2012. her new novel is called "god help the child." i am pleased to have toni morrison back at this table. welcome. toni: thank you. charlie: this has been described as fable like. is it fable like? toni: not to me. not to me. bad, reinvention, good. i hope it is more complicated than that. [laughter] charlie: it is the first one you have written with a contemporary setting sense "tar baby."
why did you go back? toni: i was a little alarmed about doing it. although i have started the book earlier. because the contemporary world was hard for me to grasp. it seemed slippery. charlie: always changing, you do not know what it will be. toni: when i finally got a way to talk about it through the confusion of race and color and class, then i could do it. charlie: when you got through? toni: when i began to think about what was significant now in 2007, 8, whatever. one of the enormous topics was race,, color, shades of color. charlie: what is the difference between race and color? toni: well, color is a substitute for racism.
races just human beings. there are privileges to certain kinds of color. these are social concerns, they are not inventions of science. that is, descriptions that are scientific. things that human beings think of for good reasons some profitable, some just personal. how can you feel really, really good about yourself if there is nothing to be othered, if you cannot separate yourself from something that you can convince yourself is lower? charlie: are these troubling times? toni: yes.
[laughter] toni: i am not convinced it is different but it is obvious now. a little cowardly, i think. charlie: how do you think cowardly? toni: when we think about the media and the journalistic stories about young or middle-aged black men being shot by police, what astonishes me is not so many because there have always been a lot, it has just not been newsworthy. it is the obvious cowardice of the police. i do not mean all police but those that we hear about. how are you afraid of a man running away from you? how are you afraid of somebody standing in a grocery store on the phone, with a toy gun that you could buy in the store? how could you be afraid of a little boy? and who are these people that call 911?
who are they? you see a little kid with a toy gun and you get on the phone. i liked the policeman who was chasing a guy who had killed some people and turned around, faced the policeman, said shoot me. he said i am not going to shoot you. he kept saying it. the guy obviously wanted to be shot, suicide by cop. but he did not do it. he finally took the guy down. but then i realized that that policeman had been in the military. he was not a coward. charlie: he had different training. toni: entirely different. he was brave. he stood up. these guys running around, just popping people over and over again.
charlie: how can we change that? toni: we have to change the police training. charlie: you think it is obvious. toni: it is clear. and perhaps, i was wondering the same thing during the civil rights parades when martin luther king was around. what can we do? in that instance you have somebody who could actually talk with somebody in the administration. i am not so sure about that can happen now. in spite of the fact that the president of the united states is a black man. charlie: you do not think anybody can talk to him? toni: oh sure, i am sure he is aware of it. very keenly. charlie: i think the things that he supports, he is very interested in the plight of young black men. but it is caught up in the
judicial process, alarming numbers. they disappear into the legal process, courts or prisons. i am interested in the subject. toni: the whole, everything we do in this country, is deemed a war. a war on women, a war on christmas, a war on drugs. three times and you are out. there is this enormous pressure to change society. i suppose.
and coupled with prison for profit, it distorted everything. charlie: tell me who lula was. toni: she was beaten up little girl, threatened by her mother. who was very upset when she saw her child because of her color. she is very, very black. really black. and this is what we used to call a high yellow woman. she could be looking at a toad as far as she is concerned. and she thought a little bit about giving her away. she does not. she tries to take care of her. but she needs to protect her from people who will feel the same way that she does and in so doing she disables her.
until that little girl can use that very thing, deep blackness to her advantage, she is a crippled person, i think. sad, aggressive, young. it takes the book for her and her lover, who was also traumatized, to figure it out. and become a three-dimensional person. charlie: the book is about the bond between the sweetness and lulu. toni: most of it. sweetness opens it and closes it. she learns a little bit but she is incorrigible. charlie: in the review of the book carl walker writes that "you are asking the reader about what happens to children who cannot forget the torment of an excruciatingly painful childhood."
toni: it is true. i think we all have some level of recollection of maybe not serious trauma but unpleasantness. someone who should have loved us and did not. we sometimes think we have gotten over it but many times it is distorting and shadowing our behavior. and it is debilitating. you know, you have regrets, but you do something about it. i think, as in the book, the best thing is to stop thinking about yourself and to start thinking about somebody else start taking care of somebody else. it is not always about you.
charlie: you say that you did not appreciate the hierarchy of color until you went to howard. toni: that is true. charlie: what did you learn about the hierarchy of color? toni: that it was more convenient the lighter your skin was. there were levels that i could even distinguish in sororities schools, departments, etc. where the obedience was and where the adoration was and the scorn for some people who were not light skinned. charlie: how did you experience it? toni: very differently. [laughter] toni: i thought my little hometown was the way the whole world was.
the hierarchy in my hometown was almost the opposite, you know. so i -- the only thing worse than that was washington, d.c. out there it was serious business. it was segregated in a very strenuous way. so that i felt safe at howard but it was different. i did not know these grades and levels of color, class, all of that. i did not know that. and i learned. charlie: because you are accomplished, a nobel prize winner, what you mean to the world of letters in america, do you fully comprehend that and do you fully believe that it is justified?
[laughter] toni: well, there are really two people. my name is chloe. toni morrison is the name that i acquired as an adult. and they are two different people. toni morrison thinks about what you just said. whether or not she is important in the world. and she has medals and she gets attention and that is fine, she can handle that. the other person, the person, is the one that writes and thinks and invents. and is wholly uninterested --
charlie: in toni morrison. toni: yes. likes what she does. charlie: the talent is with chloe? and toni is the package? the beating heart is chloe? toni: they are both nice. they just do different things. charlie: you are happiest being chloe? i think you like it. i think you like being toni morrison. toni: she, toni morrison, can make you think that. she is good at that. charlie: because she is good at it. she can make you think that she likes it because she is good at that. she has all of the indicia of it. she is admired by people that matter. toni: some of it is really genuine. depending on circumstances and
the people she is relating to. i was saying to somebody earlier that i am really exhausted talking about myself. really exhausted. [laughter] toni: however, what you get to get. charlie: which is? toni: signing books for readers. going to the 92nd street y going to politics and prose and reading a little bit and have people line up and i signed their books. i do not see readers normally. charlie: you see people at the other end? toni: that i like. charlie: people always say to me i watch your show or read your book, it gives you a face. what you don't like is when they remind you of a show you did five years ago. or say, i love it. "beloved," i loved "beloved." toni: people have different tastes. i thought book a or b would be a
knockout and it wasn't. different ways that people read. it is like music, the songs that you loved when you were 16 that you cannot bear now. charlie: when did you start writing this? toni: about three years ago. charlie: did the death of your son affect you? this book, because it is about a parent and child. toni: he died when i was home and i think i dedicated it to him. this one i just said "for you." doesn't it say that? charlie: "for you." you know, you would say for you
and you know you are. [laughter] toni: that is what it was. charlie: how did that affect your writing? your loss? toni: it didn't. charlie: are you saying that because you are being protective? toni: maybe. the death of my son is so powerful. so endless. so without closure. so significant and important. i have every anticipation that it will always be this way. will always be this way. so, you know, it is beyond being affected. it is like losing, like losing
arms. charlie: you will be reminded of it the rest of your life if you lose your arm or you lose your son. toni: yes. and it should be that way. as long as he is dead, why should i forget? charlie: you are interested in writing without the white gaze. toni: absolutely. i did a play with peter sellers. desdemona. i told him i would only do desdemona if he would get rid of iago. he said that he is the whole point and i said i do not want him in their. he talks too much. the play is called "othello." he is never alone on stage. if i could only get rid of the
white guy we could get somewhere. charlie: was jason your editor? toni: he was my boss. charlie: which publishing house? toni: i worked at random. bob gottlieb. he was my editor. charlie: even though you do not write about ballet. toni: he is writing a biography. charlie: of himself. a memoir biography. what does he add to you? toni: he is always putting them in. i am trying to have a certain sound, a certain music. i do not want breath over here. charlie: your writing has music. toni: and i have to hear it. charlie: you hear it and then
you put it on the page or you put it on the page and then you hear it? toni: i hear it first. i signed up to do audiobooks of my own. at the beginning, other people did that. and then good actresses and i never listened to them and once i did, i said, that is not right. she is not hearing it. and then i did them all by myself. charlie: it takes about a month, doesn't it? you are what, 84 now? and proud of it? toni: i guess i have no alternative. [laughter] charlie: no, you do not.
toni: my sister, she is a year and a half older, and she said what happened to life. and i said, i got old. and i think, i took such care of you, body. what is the matter with you? [laughter] charlie: body, i took care of you, why are you treating me this way? toni: i convinced her it was just as well that we stayed around because the alternative was death. charlie: you prefer it to the alternative, separating from your body. you said one thing, that one's world as you get older, becomes smaller. toni: i wonder what i meant by small. charlie: you said it becomes smaller and more insular. as far as your circle. toni: your circle of friends
becomes smaller. charlie: one thing people have said is that becoming older than no longer care if someone likes them, they only care about what they like. toni: that is true. it narrows a certain kind of values. charlie: time is not infinite as far as your mind. toni: i said when i turned 804i have three things to say. one was no, the other was shut up, and the third was get out. charlie: no, shut up, and get out. how about tell me more? toni: the woman told me once something that was sad. charlie: which was? toni: all the good people have already been born.
charlie: jimmy baldwin's mother. what did she mean? toni: she did not have much faith in the future. charlie: the best ones are here. did you know jimmy baldwin? toni: yes. charlie: did you know him well? toni: i visited him. in the south of france. that is where his house was and that is where i was when i visited him. charlie: did you know josephine baker? toni: no. charlie: who else did you know the expatriate community? any of the jazz artists?
toni: no, i did not know anyone. i wish i had. the most beautiful music there is. that was quite an exciting little group, now that i think about it. charlie: paris is a different city, too. as much as i love it. since we are talking about 84, a recent "new york times" article speculated about your legacy and made comparisons with william faulkner. toni: makes sense. charlie: why does it make sense? toni: he had a relationship with black people that was very different from most of the other contemporary writers. he was affectionate or stupid or contemptible but he was easy and clear. and also his language was explosive.
and i do not know, the legacy thing, what i would hope is that at some point i would not be described as an african-american woman writer, as though that were a category. i just want to be alphabetized. so you do not say william tolstoy is a white male russian. charlie: i totally agree. toni: which has nothing to do with rejecting any of those. but that might happen. it has not yet. and some of it is because african-american writers want to say that. i am an african-american and i can do this and i understand that. at some point, somebody's grandchildren are going to say --
charlie: you are saying -- the comparison for me is with all writers, not any race or particular defining or even gender. not raise, not gender, not anything, just writer. i am serious. toni: i remember being at an event. the man who was going to introduce me said wonderful things. i do not think of toni is an african-american writer, as a female writer. i think of her as -- and he paused. and i said, white male writer. and everybody laughed. [laughter] toni: he was trying to say, i think, something along the lines you just described. i would like that. charlie: the book is called "god help the child."
emily: from pier three in san francisco, welcome to "bloomberg west" where we cover innovation, technology and the future of business. i'm emily chang. americans are feeling better about the economy. the university of michigan showed consumer confidence increased in april for the first time since 2007. strong sense of job security and upward momentum in wage growth is strengthening confidence. the fed left open the possibility that they will raise interest rates in the second half of the year as the economy gains strength. six baltimore officers have been charged in the death of freddie gray.